Politically Connected Florida Doctor Rakes in $21 Million in Medicare Payments

By: William Patrick FloridaWatchdog.org | Posted: April 21, 2014 3:55 AM
FBI Raids Dr. Salomon Melgen's Office

FBI raids Dr. Salomon Melgen's West Palm Beach office

A South Florida doctor with campaign finance ties to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., took in a whopping $20.8 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012, according to an Associated Press analysis of physician data released by the Obama administration.

Salomon Melgen, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist, was tops among 825,000 individual physicians, half of whom received $30,265 or less.

But the first-place ranking won’t likely earn Melgen exalted status among his medical peers. The revelation comes amid a cloud of suspicion already surrounding the politically connected Floridian.

Melgen’s office, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, was raided by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in January 2013. The Miami Herald reported “the search-and-seizure raid has ties to a possible Medicare fraud inquiry.”

In 2009, Medicare auditors determined Melgen’s company overbilled the federal insurance program to the tune of $9 million over a two-year period.

Salomon Melgan

Dr. Salomon Melgen

Menendez, an avowed friend and political beneficiary of Melgen’s largesse, twice went to bat for Melgen by raising concerns with federal health officials about whether the Medicare audit was fair, reported the Washington Post.

According to OpenSecrets.org, Melgen and his family members gave $426,000 in campaign donations since 1992, “a huge portion of which went to Menendez or organizations with which he’s affiliated.”

-- $33,700 to Robert Menendez.
-- $60,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by Menendez 2009-11.
-- $50,000 to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.

Russ Choma of the Center for Responsive Politics called these donations “the tip of the iceberg.”

“Melgen’s business, Vitreo-Retinal Consultants, also gave $700,000 to Majority PAC in 2012, the super-PAC set up to support Senate Democrats. Majority PAC spent about $600,000 to back Menendez in his (2012) re-election.”

Robert Menendez, U.S. Senator

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., both received about $10,000 each from Melgen. He also contributed $5,000 to a Republican PAC called Democracy Believers.

The AP physician analysis found that one in four doctors who raked in more than $3 million in Medicare payments practiced medicine in Florida, including Asad Qamar.

Qamar, a Central Florida cardiologist, received $18 million from Medicare in 2012. Qamar gave $250,000 over the past 10 years to the political campaigns of President Obama and other prominent Democrats, reported the New York Times.

A New Jersey doctor received the third highest Medicare reimbursement total in 2012 at $12.6 million.

Menendez’s relationship with Melgen became national news in late 2012 when the senator reimbursed Melgen for several trips he took to the Dominican Republic on Melgen’s private jet. Menendez is alleged to have met with Dominican prostitutes, though he categorically denies having done so.

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org.

Tags: News, Politics

Comments (1)

It's Not Politics It's Organized Corruption
7:43AM APR 21ST 2014
Well don't think this is a Democratic issue alone. This is an issue of organized crime with government infiltration at the highest levels. This Doctor could have never pulled this off with just one Senator Menendez. This takes a little more organization than that. Obviously U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. has taken some lessons from former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and his partner present governor Rick Scott in how to wind friends and defraud the taxpayers at the same time.

Miguel Recarey IMC and Jeb Bush

By 1985, Jeb Bush- whose great desire when he moved to Miami was get as rich as possible as quickly as possible-was just about to meet his next big break. Both men were to serve each other's interests.
At the time Bush and his future employer Miguel Recarey met, his company International Medical Centers (IMC) was leasing nearly all the space in Camilo Padreda' s vacant office building.

When the Cuban immigrant and businessman faced one major obstacle to building his Medicare empire. According to Health and Human Services (HHS) regulations, HMOs were restricted at drawing no greater than 50% of its revenue from Medicare.

According to Recarey, in order to get around this restriction, he contacted the middle son of then-Vice President Bush who called HHS Secretary Margaret Heckler to obtain a wavier for Recarey. In exchange, IMC reportedly paid Bush's company a $75,000 "real-estate consultant" fee. (Supposedly for helping IMC find suitable headquarters which, according to
IMC records, had already been found before Bush had been hired.)

Jeb Bush’s “lobbying” -or influence peddling- was part of a larger operation during which top-level Republican lobbyists whom Recarey had hired for $1 million were also working on HHS for the waiver.
Bush denied any direct involvement but admitted only that he made one call on Recarey’s behalf to Haddow’s assistant, to secure Recarey a “fair hearing” within HHS.

In a news interview in 1986, Haddow disputed this and stated that Bush’s involvement went further. According to Haddow, two years earlier, Bush had contacted both Heckler and Haddow when doctors and patients began filing complaints against Recarey. Specifically, they charged that IMC’s medical care and allegations that Recarey had embezzled funds a few years earlier from another hospital. Bush gave the HHS assurances that Recarey was dependable. According to a source:

Bush had told Haddow that “contrary to any rumors that were floating around concerning Mr. Recarey, that he was a solid citizen from Mr. Bush’s perspective down there [in Miami], that he was a good community citizen and a good supporter of the Republican Party.”
With the obstacles overcome with successful deregulation, Recarey’s Medicare business skyrocketed, becoming America’s largest health maintenance organization for the elderly and received $1 billion in Medicare funds.
All good things must come to an end and this “good thing” didn’t last long. In 1987, the bubble burst for Miguel Recarey and his Medicare scheme.

The unraveling came when a low-level HHS official, Leon Weinstein, began warning his superior that IMC had been conducting illegal business since 1977. These warning had, in fact, began in 1983- even before Jeb Bush was involved- and were consistently ignored. It wasn’t until Weinstein alerted Congressmen Barney Frank and Pete Stark that the proper attention was given. A investigative hearing was initiated into the scandal.

During the hearings it came out that Recarey was also being investigated for bribing union officials in order to get a larger membership of non-Medicare patients. Soon enough, the company was put out of business in 1987 by the courts after the incredible medical fraud was discovered- the largest Medicare fraud in history.

Escape with a Pat on the Back

This “solid citizen” Recarey fled the country when the courts filed three indictments for labor racketeering, illegal wiretapping, and Medicare fraud. He escaped the country for safe haven in Madrid, (or maybe..Caracas)
The circumstances of his departure can be found in the book, Masters of deception: The Worldwide White-Collar Crime Crisis and Ways to Protect Yourself, by Louis R. Mizell:
Curiously the US government made it extremely easy for Recarey to leave the country. Even though he was under indictment, a federal magistrate didn't impose any travel restrictions and the State Department graciously issued passports for his children. In August 1987, the Internal Revenue Service expedited Recarey's corporate income-tax refund of $2.2 million income tax refund provided Recarey with a comfortable life as a fugitive and certainly helped him avoid capture.

Recarey’s escape:

"That the US would allow Recarey to live in Venezuela with his millions without putting any pressure on him to face the charges makes a mockery of the criminal justice system, “said Joseph DeMaria, the former Justice Department prosecutor who brought the first indictment against the IMC president.

During his tenure at IMC, Recarey contributed hundred of thousand of dollars to top politicians, including the campaigns of President Bush, former presidents Reagan and Carter, the late US Rep. Claude Pepper and others....

Recarey has bounced back and forth between Spain and Venezuela and now he lives securely with his wife and children in Lagunita, a posh suburb of Caracas, according to reports received by US law enforcement authorities..
He is developing condominiums in the Isla de Margarita, a bustling seaside resort 200 miles northeast of the Venezuelan capital.
William Teich, head of the US Office of Labor Racketeering in Miami, called IMC, “the classic case of embezzlement of government funds” and declared it was nothing more than a “bust-out operation” where money was “drained out the back door” and disappeared down “a black hole.”
The son of the then vice-president had his own special reasons for helping Recarey and IMC. In fact, the Bush administration had its reasons. According to a report on Jeb Bush in The National Corruption Index

After graduating law school, Rick Scott practiced law at Johnson & Swanson in Dallas, Texas, where he was eventually made partner. One of Scott’s major clients was Tom Hicks [#3 above] of HM Capital and many other corporate entities. It was Tom Hick’s that brought Rick Scott together with George W. Bush in the Texas Ranger’s purchase.

In 1988, Scott and multimillionaire Richard Rainwater founded their own company, Columbia Hospital Corporation, through which they bought old hospitals, “including many in South Florida.” With a little help from Jeb – they picked up the pieces of the master plan of deception of Medicare Fraud. IMC (International Medical Centers) with a new name and a fresh start.
The venture was so successful that Business Week named it one of the best performing companies in the nation. A 1997 fraud investigation forced Scott out as CEO and Chairman. From then on until his venture into politics, Scott dabbled in several profitable investment schemes, and was even co-owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team with President George W. Bush.

Rick Scott's company, Columbia/HCA, paid a $1.7 billion settlement after pleading guilty to several charges. The fraud was so rampant under Scott's leadership that some documents were brazenly "stamped with warnings that they should not be disclosed to Medicare auditors," "some hospitals were knowingly inflating the numbers reported to the Government in the cost report to improperly raise total compensation," and they "improperly included expenses for employee picnics, Christmas gifts and food for nonemployees at social functions as expenditures related to patient care in the cost report for its headquarters."
Columbia/HCA pled guilty to "overcharging the government," "exaggerating the seriousness of the illnesses" of patients, and giving doctors kickbacks in order to receive higher Medicare payments. Well done. It takes a special kind of person to steal money from a program that helps hardworking Americans.
And like Miguel Recarey – Rick Scott walked away “scot free” only Rick Scott and Jeb Bush were allowed to stay in the US without criminal charges being filed against them. Now in 2014 they are co-governor’s of Florida continuing to infiltrate government offices their Cuban Mobsters – descendants of the same criminal empire that Fidel Castro run out of Cuba in January 1959.
On June 23, 2009, the New York Times reported:
At $100 Million, the newest Medicare fraud case still doesn't come close to what Rick Scott's company paid for defrauding Medicare.
"Officials in Miami reported breaking a Medicare fraud ring that they say spanned five states, used 29 fake storefronts and tried to steal $100 million from Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Eight defendants were charged in the elaborate scam that the authorities say billed Medicare for bogus H.I.V. and cancer infusion drugs using storefronts in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina, the authorities said. Two of the defendants and about $30 million are still missing."
Interesting, disgusting, and, unfortunately, not the first time millions of dollars in Medicare fraud has been uncovered.
Anyone familiar with Rick Scott, Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR), and/or the Columbia/HCA hospital system knows that $100 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to the fine Scott's Columbia/HCA paid for defrauding Medicare.
Salomon Melgen, a West Palm Beach ophthalmologist, was tops when he took in a whopping $20.8 million in Medicare reimbursements in 2012, according to an Associated Press analysis of physician data released by the Obama administration.
Well either they are stealing less and less each time or they are spreading the wealth by allowing more friends to steal more money.
Like Hillary says “what difference does it make?” It’s OPM (other peoples money) away way.
And like the leeches they are – when all the peoples money is gone and everyone is starving and wilting on the vine – so will the leeches be gone. That’s their goal total destruction of the human race as we know it. What then will they do with all the worthless paper money in the world?

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